Shenton College, which is about to become the first school in Australia to introduce sign language as a mainstream course, was yesterday named secondary school of the year at the WA Education Awards.
The school scooped the prize pool yesterday, with principal Michael Morgan winning the title of secondary principal of the year and newly minted teacher Rebecca Halse recognised as one of eight top beginning teachers.
To round off the school's performance, Shenton College Deaf Education Centre's Josie Hodgetts was judged as the year's best support staff member.
Mr Morgan, who has been head of the school for five years, said it decided to offer Auslan - Australian sign language - to Year 8s next year. The option was so popular, all 30 class places were taken within a day.
He said the best thing about learning a language was that it gave students a chance to understand another culture.
Learning Auslan would allow Shenton students to use the language at recess and lunch time when they mingled with students from the deaf centre.
It would also make deaf students feel more valued because they would see their language being used.
Shenton is running the nation's first pilot project of technology that allows teachers to use smartphones to record hands-free videos of their lessons before uploading them to a secure server to review and improve the lessons.
The judges said Mr Morgan had a focus on student learning, meeting teachers from each learning area weekly to analyse student data, and took a personal interest in students' success.
The school is consistently ranked highly on academic achievement.
Ms Halse, a history teacher who won a University of WA prize for being the top teaching graduate, was offered a job at Shenton halfway through her final year after completing her teaching practice there. "In what other profession do you have the opportunity to change someone's future," she said.
Mr Morgan said the awards showed how strong public education was in WA.
He said when he met people at dinner parties, he told parents who sent their children to private schools they were "wasting their funds".